It has been widely reported that the team regarded as the only team that could compete with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference is ready to trade away key pieces of the team for draft picks. The Chicago Bulls for the second year in a row ended the regular season with the best record in the league despite being riddled with injuries. But as the Bulls prepare to go into the next season, it is worth a look at the areas the Bulls front office has fallen short and the rumored future moves that may point to even more short sighted decisions.
In the 2010/2011 season, the Bulls organization put together a deep and cohesive squad following their failure to land Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in free agency. It was a move that proved successful as the Bulls came from nowhere to become recognized as one of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. In addition to the sound supporting cast that Bulls management pieced together, they also keenly brought in defensive guru Tom Thibodeau to lead the team as its new head coach. Coupled with their emerging superstar Derrick Rose and veteran core players of Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson, the Bulls took the NBA by storm as they won more games than any other team during the regular season this past season and the one before.
However as the trade deadline loomed in the 2010/2011 season, the Bulls front office chose NOT to address the one glaring weakness with the team… the lack of offense from its shooting guard. The front office decided the team was “good enough.” This short sighted move (or lack of it) cost the Bulls dearly in the playoff as they were bounced by the Miami Heat which most regarded as being due to a lack of offensive help for Rose especially at the shooting guard spot. Later during the off season, the Bulls front office came to terms with the fact that they needed to address the shooting guard issue. But instead of trying to find a permanent addition at the position the Bulls went with an aging player who had not played a full season in three previous years. Predictably, the Bulls played the regular season largely without this new addition, Richard Hamilton, who went through three or four different injuries during the season and missed 38 games out of 66 in a shortened season. The Bulls played half of the season with essentially the same team as the year before with the same issues as the year before. In addition, the shortsighted acquisition of Hamilton has not quieted the calls for the Bulls to get “another scorer.”
As we move into the draft and trade season…the Bulls are now contemplating moving up into a draft that does not feature a “game changer” after the number one pick. Yet the Bulls are rumored to be offering Deng and or Noah to do just that. For the Bulls to rely on rookies (which reportedly Thibodeau does not trust that much) to elevate the team seems a farfetched reason to pursue this route. Rather it likely means that the Bulls have already given up and are in pseudo-rebuilding mode which is yet another short sighted move. While no one can tell for sure if this is in fact their goal until the offseason is over, if the Bulls continue along this path it will reveal that perhaps they lucked into the executive of the year award they won in 2010 and that in fact there is a lack of vision and strategy that is keeping the Bulls from being the most competitive team that they could be. The issue is not so much whether or not the Bulls should trade, it is a matter of determining whether or not it makes the team better in the short run…the here and now, especially a team already close to the top. There are perfectly good reasons to trade a Luol Deng and/or Joakim Noah. But not at the expense of making a good team worse. Even in the long run, Deng and Noah are proven players who know the Bulls system and have chemistry. Adding rookie talent is at best a risky premise that succeeds as much as it fails. If the reason for this move is the luxury tax that the Bulls front office fears, again they should pursue creative ways to approach that issue which does not compromise the team’s competitiveness. It is unfortunate that a team very near the pinnacle of success may become a victim of a management team unable to take advantage of opportunities or exhaust every opportunity to be better.